Luft has blossomed since bailin' from the Wailin' Jennys Singer-songwriter tired of the 'high stress' connected to group's recording sessions. It takes a long look in the mirror and ample courage to walk away from a project with a skyward trajectory.
But the leap of faith Cara Luft took two years ago when she said goodbye to the Wailin' Jennys is not one she regrets.
The trio had just recorded and toured behind what would be the award-winning 40 Days album, but the singer-songwriter felt it was time to focus on a solo career where she only had to draw on "20 per cent of myself for a show."
She was "tired of the high stress" that came with the Jennys recording sessions and wanted to return to a more organic process of making music.
"The Jennys would do so many takes of parts that I felt it was kind of slaughtering the music."
Growing up in Calgary, Luft started playing guitars and banjos at an early age.
Interestingly enough, the man who'd become her new foil in the studio was not in any way attached to the folk or roots music scene.
Neil Osborne of 54-40 fame had heard her demos after his sister-in-law had met Luft's mom in a stationery store in Calgary. From there, the ball got moving.
"It was serendipitous, for sure," she says. "We eventually met at a showcase in Vancouver and he came to the sessions with no baggage about how a folk record should be made."
With Osborne, Luft produced a strong set of material released under the title of The Light Fantastic.
Some of the material had been hanging around since her time in the Jennys. "A bunch of tunes were written in a convent in small-town Saskatchewan where I was hanging out with a couple of elderly nuns, which was a healing experience."
Luft is aware that her concert audiences have been consistently connecting to the song The Light, which she presents in a layered sort of arrangement with her partner in crime on the road, multi-instrumentalist Hugh McMillan of Spirit of the West fame.
"It's quite beautiful watching people close their eyes and letting the song sweep over them. Jerusalem is another piece that works well live, as does our arrangement of the traditional piece Black Water Side. People are digging what we do."
Luft comes from a long line of musicians and entertainers. Her parents were professional folk musicians and she recently found out her great-grandfather was a singer in touring vaudeville shows.
Her live show also includes some material she used to perform with the Wailin' Jennys, from originals to her cover of the Mike Scott/Waterboys tune Bring 'Em All In. Memories of that chapter of her life are positive ones.
"I really honed my chops with the Jennys, developed my harmony singing and more of a stage presence."
She even experienced a bit of Jennys flashback at the Mission Folk Festival this past summer in B.C.
"Annabelle Chvostek, who replaced me in the group, also left earlier this year and we were put in a workshop together that was called The Bailin' Jennys. We didn't know each other well, but it was interesting to talk about our experiences and try to pull some songs together."
Luft and McMillan bring their show to the Westwood Unitarian Church hall on Friday. Doors open at 7 p.m., the venue is located at 11135 65th Ave., and tickets are $15.
- Peter North